Nutrition Advice for Building Strong Teeth & Healthy Gums
All aspects of our overall health and well-being are linked to how approach nutrition in a variety of ways. When considering the health of our teeth and gums, eating a sensible and balanced diet is essential. The food and drink we consume impacts the ability for our teeth to ward off tooth decay and gum disease, as well as helps to provide the basic building blocks our bodies need to maintain strong teeth and resilient gums.
If you pause for a moment and think about how nutrition can impact the health of your teeth, we suspect the first thing that comes to mind is how your parents and dentist reminded you to avoid sugary foods and drinks when you were a kid. However, nutrition has a much bigger influence on your teeth and gums that goes far beyond how much candy you choose to eat. The reality is that the strength of your teeth and the health of your gums are determined by a combination of factors, including the foods you choose to have in your diet, as well as those which you purposely avoid.
To truly understand the impact that nutrition has on your smile, it’s first important to know what exactly teeth are made from. From there, it will help explain the need for essential vitamins and minerals to strengthen your teeth and ward off harmful dental conditions.
What Are Teeth Made From?
Our teeth consist of several layers, each made from a different set of building blocks. The innermost part of the tooth is known as the pulp, and this is where the soft tissue, nerve endings and blood vessels reside. Surrounding the pulp of the tooth is a material called dentin. Dentin is a very dense collection of cells built out of protein, collagen, minerals, and some water. Covering the exterior of the tooth is the layer of dental enamel. Enamel is created during the development and growth of teeth when cells called ameloblasts secrete a calcium-rich substance which then condenses and mineralizes. The result of this mineralization is the super-hard protective shell of the tooth that gives teeth their shiny, white appearance.
What Nutrients Are Vital for a Healthy Mouth?
Each layer of the tooth requires different nutritive substances to thrive and remain healthy. This is determined based on the type of organic material each layer is made of, and the function that they perform. Starting with the inner pulp of the tooth, these soft tissues requires protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, and fatty acids to develop properly, as well as water to stay adequately hydrated. These same nutrients are critical for keeping the surrounding gum tissue healthy.
The dentin of the teeth relies on a steady supply of protein, collagen, calcium, and phosphorus. The majority of dentin’s mass consists of hydroxyapatite, a mineral compound of calcium and phosphate formed into a crystalline structure that gives it strength and rigidity. Proper hydration is also vital to maintaining healthy tooth dentin.
The outer shell of dental enamel is primarily made of mineralized calcium phosphate, however it is condensed into a much tighter format than what is found in dentin. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest substance found in the human body. This is what makes it so good at protecting the teeth and enabling them to bite, chew, and grind food efficiently. To ensure tooth enamel is as strong and resilient, it requires calcium and phosphorus in sufficient quantity.
Even though our teeth are extremely strong, they are not impervious. If a person’s diet does not contain enough of the essential vitamins and minerals to nurture the teeth and gums, slow degradation will begin to occur. This degradation can affect the different parts mouth in several ways.
What Happens to Our Teeth if Our Diet is Deficient in These Nutrients?
Like any other part of our health, if we neglect our nutrition and don’t absorb adequate daily amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, the condition of our teeth and gums will decline. The reason for this is that even hard substances in our bodies such as bone material and dental enamel require continual replenishment of the materials that make them up. In the case of dental enamel, exposure to the acidic environment of the mouth causes the minerals in the protective shell to gradually leech out. This thins the enamel and causes it to weaken, making the teeth more susceptible to tooth decay and bacterial infections. People who lack sufficient calcium and phosphorus in their diets are more likely to experience tooth decay, as their bodies are not able to adequately replenish the minerals that are gradually eroding from the enamel.
Vitamin C deficiency is another example of how nutritional intake can directly affect the health of the mouth. Vitamin C is vital to maintaining the structure of collagen in the body, and keeps gums and connective tissue in the mouth strong and resilient. When you are not getting enough of vitamin C in your diet it can eventually lead to weakened gums, loose teeth, and heightened risks of bacterial infections in the soft tissues of the mouth. Extreme vitamin C deficiency can create a condition commonly known as scurvy, where the teeth can become so loose they fall out, and the gums can degrade to the point where they have open sores and frequently bleed.
Deficiencies in other nutrients such as folate, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats can all contribute to weaker gums, reduced immune system protection, slower remineralization of tooth enamel, and loose teeth. The greater these deficiencies, the more pronounced the symptoms will be, and the faster the degradation of the health of the mouth will occur.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Given how serious some of these dental conditions can be, you can definitely see how making some simple improvements to nutrition can be well worth the effort for the sake of the health of your mouth.
Best Sources of Nutrients for Healthier Teeth and Gums
For starters, you’ll want to think about incorporating more foods that are rich in the essential minerals needed to maintain strong tooth enamel. Calcium can be found in a wide range of food products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy items. Adding more dairy to your diet also increases your intake of protein and healthy fats as well. For those who may be lactose intolerant, high levels of calcium can also be found in dairy alternatives like soy milk. You can also find calcium-enriched juices to further bolster your daily calcium intake.
Other essential minerals like iron, folate, magnesium, and phosphorus are also found in dairy, as well as meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are also common sources of these minerals. These are all excellent sources of protein, which is necessary for the formation and maintenance of healthy gums, connective tissue, and muscles.
Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and tangerines, but you can also find it in other fruits like strawberries, apples, pineapple, and pears. Some vegetables also contain decent amounts of vitamin C, such as cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes.
To increase your daily intake of vitamin A, choose more leafy greens and vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots. Vitamin A is also found in good quantities in certain fruits like mangoes and cantaloupes, and in protein sources like eggs, fish oils, and dairy products.
You can get more vitamin D simply by getting some more exposure to sunshine each day. Our bodies naturally synthesize vitamin D when we get exposed to UV rays, so heading outside to get some fresh air will certainly help in this regard. Food sources of vitamin D include such items as fatty fish like salmon, halibut, and mackerel, and canned tuna. Eggs and mushrooms are other natural sources of vitamin D, but you can also obtain more vitamin D from enriched foods like breakfast cereals and fortified liquids like milk and juice.
Get a Healthier Mouth Through Better Nutrition
Making positive changes to your regular meal routine to get more of the essential tooth-strengthening vitamins and minerals is certainly something we should all put effort into, but we also need to take care to avoid over-indulging in the foods and drinks that are known to have detrimental effects on our teeth. Simply put, it’s a good idea to cut back on excessive sugars and sweet sodas. The occasional snack here and there is harmless, but try and choose healthier, more nutritious options with a greater frequency. You’ll be impressed at the difference it can make in your overall energy level, as well as how well your next dental checkup goes.
If you’re curious what other simple changes you can make in your life that can help to improve the health of your smile, the best way to get specific answers is to book an appointment with Georgian Dental today! Our hygienists and dentists are standing by to give your teeth a thorough checkup, and provide all the guidance and advice you need to keep your teeth strong, your gums healthy, and your smile looking fantastic. Call today & arrange for your next visit!